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Edwards Wins Election to Congress

Donna F. Edwards (D) won a special election against Peter James (R), becoming the first black woman elected to Congress from the state of Maryland.

James, who attempts to limit his interactions with government and his personal debt by having no driver's license, bank account, home mortgage or credit card, has said he ran for the office largely to call attention to what he saw as deep defects in the nation's banking structure.

He planned no party for election night, but instead expected to relax with family members and begin plotting strategy for a November contest. "A lot of people thought she was the congresswoman already -- there's been a lot of that," he said of Edwards.

Edwards, meanwhile, gathered with supporters at the Lanham union hall of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 26. The event site was significant because the union backed Wynn in the February primary and hosted his gathering on the primary election night.

"It's interesting she would do that -- in effect saying, I'm in this seat now, I'm leaving my mark," said Ron Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland.

Edwards said she reconciled with the union leaders in the first days after February's primary and was holding her party at their offices was a way to symbolize party unity.

"We're Democrats -- we know how to do primaries," she said. "And then we get the primary over, and we know how to govern."

Edwards said she would first turn her attention to staffing her congressional office and taking on constituent concerns.

Wynn's resignation gave Edwards an opportunity to gain seniority over freshmen in Congress elected in November. That advantage, combined with Edwards's reputation as a giant-slayer in the primary election and her national network of followers, allows her to enter Congress with unusual prominence.

"She's going to be noticed because she unseated an incumbent," Walters said. "That gives her some visibility."

Walters said, however, that the novelty will wear off quickly and then Edwards would make her mark through hard work.

Edwards called her chance to become Maryland's first black woman elected to Congress an "added benefit" of her campaign, made sweeter because the historical milestone played little role in an election dominated by issues.

"It speaks volumes about our electorate," she said. "It is so wonderful for women, for African Americans, for all of us to celebrate that we can move forward and not even really pay attention to it."

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